Faculty + Staff

UCLA's Terence Tao awarded inaugural $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics

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Terence Tao
Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Terence Tao, widely considered one of the world’s leading mathematicians, has been named one of five inaugural recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, an award established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner.

A professor of mathematics and holder of the James and Carol Collins Chair in the UCLA College, Tao was hailed for his numerous breakthrough contributions to harmonic analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations and analytic number theory.

He will be presented with $3 million and a trophy at an official ceremony this November.

The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics recognizes major advances in the field, honors the world’s best mathematicians, supports their future endeavors and communicates the excitement of mathematics to the general public.

"Mathematics is the most fundamental of the sciences — the language they are all written in," Milner said. "The best mathematical minds benefit us all by expanding the sphere of human knowledge."

Dubbed the "Mozart of Math," Tao, 38, made history in 2006 by becoming the first UCLA faculty member to win the prestigious Fields Medal, often described as the "Nobel Prize in mathematics."

Born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, Tao displayed a genius for math at an early age. He started high school and began learning calculus at 7 and by age 9 was tackling university-level calculus. At 11, he was thriving in international mathematics competitions. He was just 20 when he earned his doctorate from Princeton University, and he joined UCLA's faculty that year. UCLA promoted him to full professor four years later.

Tao has received numerous national and international honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Crafoord Prize, and election to the American Philosophical Society. He has been named among the "Best Brains in Science" by Discover magazine and one of science’s "Brilliant 10" by Popular Science. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Sciences.

Tao said he is considering using some of the award money to support open access journals or online mathematical research collaborations.

Other 2014 recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics are Simon Donaldson of New York’s Stony Brook University and Imperial College London; Maxim Konstsevich of France’s Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques; Jacob Lurie of Harvard University; and Richard Taylor of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Read the Breakthrough Prize's press release on the winners.

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